Exhibitors who participated in a new programme at the region’s biggest engineering and manufacturing expo have secured more than 10 new contracts worth over £200,000 between them.

Twenty one companies from across County Durham signed up to the very first Incubator Zone at the 2017 Durham Oktoberfest event.

And now, just over two months since they showcased themselves to an audience of almost 1,000 people, seven exhibitors have confirmed they’ve already converted leads into business.

They include Shred Direct, whose owner Graeme Carter completed a project with a North East engineering company and has quoted for two more contracts; Peterlee security and storage company Steadfast Group, who are on the verge of converting two new sizeable contracts; Bishop Auckland-based bespoke box manufacturer JSB Enterprises, who have add three new companies to their portfolio; and supplier of safety products, Nusafe, who have won work with a large automotive manufacturer.

Other Incubator Zone exhibitors who have either won work or are in the process of securing contracts are Bespoke Electrical, Protech City and Quality Hydraulics.

Graeme Carter from Shred Direct said: “We made some excellent contacts and have already completed work with engineering company Hiatco to shred a lot of their confidential paperwork.

“We also have quotes in for two other bits of work and it would be great if they came off in 2018.”

Donna King is marketing manager at Nusafe. She said: “We really enjoyed our Incubator Zone experience. It was such a good way to showcase our business to a new audience and the fact we’ve now secured work with a regional automotive manufacturer is an added bonus.”

Paul Harbord from Steadfast said: “Not only are we close to signing two contracts, we also made many more new contacts on the day which we’re confident will lead to other work over the course of the year.”

The Incubator Zone project is part of the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), created to engage companies who had not been involved with Durham Oktoberfest previously.

Delivered in partnership with LEC Communications and Design and with European Regional Development Fund funding, the Incubator Zone area enabled new and growing companies, or those who had little or no exhibition experience, to showcase their products and services.

Each Incubator Zone exhibitor was given intensive support to prepare them for the event and equip them with the skills to ensure they were in the strongest possible position to capitalise on their involvement. They were also given marketing materials such as flyers, banner stands and business cards.

Michael Harriett is business engagement officer with the DBOP team. He said: “It’s so encouraging that just a couple of months after Oktoberfest, many of the Incubator Zone exhibitors have won work or are actively engaging with potential customers.

“These contracts would not have been possible had they not signed up to the programme, so we’d urge any businesses who are in a similar position to get in touch to see if they’re eligible for this year’s Incubator Zone.”

The criteria to exhibit within the Incubator Zone is that the companies must:

  • Be based in County Durham
  • Ideally employ less than 10 people
  • Have proven links to the manufacturing and engineering sectors
  • Be actively looking to grow

Ben Gilhespy is Operations Director at County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network, which organises Oktoberfest. He said: “The main objective of the Incubator Zone project was that companies walked away with strong business leads which could generate work, and with around 12 new contracts won already, that has certainly been achieved.”

Oktoberfest 2018 returns on Thursday, October 18. For updates on the event, or to book as an exhibitor, visit durhamoktoberfest.org.uk.